Karachi going the Kolkata way
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Karachi going the Kolkata way

That the tale of 2 Tests can be so alike is amazing but Karachi looks set to go the Kolkata way, writes Atul Sondhi.

india Updated: Jan 31, 2006 12:25 IST

Temperamental and volatile are the best words to describe the cities of Kolkata and Karachi. People in these twin cities not only have unparalleled passion for cricket, but also some heart-stopping disturbances.

While Indians have always seemed to be buoyed by the crowd support at Kolkata, which may not reflect in the team's winning ratio, Karachi has been Pakistan's cricketing bastion for quite some time now.

However, both the cities have seen some of the most thrilling contests between the arch-rivals. In fact, the match currently being played at Karachi has disturbing similarities to the one played at Kolkata in 1999.

 India in Kolkata34818 
 Pakistan in Karachi3719117

It is disturbing from Indian point of view as their overwhelming advantage in the opening session of the match had failed to translate into a win. India had lost the 1999 Kolkata Test after reducing Pakistan to 26 for six. The situation looks no different at Karachi, even though the hosts at one stage were reduced to 39 for six.

It was Pakistan's resilient lower middle order in 1999 which had pulled them through. Being six wickets down for 26 is as good as being nil-two down in the first five minutes of a football match.

Before 1999, Pakistan had come back only twice from losing five wickets for less than 50 runs in such conditions, but never outside Pakistan.

Pakistan's comebacks before Kolkata Test:

 CollapseFinal Score Opposition Venue  Year Result 
 5-22145 WI Dhaka1958-59  Won
 5-37159WIFaisalabad  1958-59 Won

Here's a glimpse of the Kolkata test, played on February 16, 1999. Waqar was not playing, reportedly due to his differences with coach Javed Miandad, and this may have played on the mind of the team.

Besides, a demoralised Pakistan side had still not recovered from the scars of Kumble's perfect-ten at Kotla in the previous test. This showed in the first innings at Kolkatta. Srinath and Prasad were on fire and Pakistan had soon lost their top six wickets for just 26 runs. World class batsmen like Saeed Anwar, Shahid Afridi, Ijaz Ahmed and Yousuf Youhana, now Mohammad Yousuf, were back in the pavilion.

Then came Moin Khan and played the knock of his life. In the company of reliable Salim Malik, he added 84 for the seventh wicket. Next in was the Captain, Wasim Akram, who played an aggressive knock of 38 off just 52 balls.

Their partnership for the eighth wicket yielded 63 runs and Pakistan eventually finished at 185. Moin had contributed 38 per cent of the team's total. He took nearly four hours and 30 minutes to compile his 70, consuming 207 deliveries in the process.

At Karachi on Sunday, Pakistan made 60 more in the first innings, but the common link with the Kolkata recovery was another wicket-keeper. Kamran Akmal's 113 were also a hefty contribution to the team's total.

 Pak 1st innings   Top ScorerPercent contribution 
 Kolkata (1999) 185 70 38
 Karachi (2006) 245 113 46

From 147 for two after a fruitful morning session to a modest 223 all out. India greatly disappointed. But the meagre lead of 38 runs was not so demoralising as Akhtar's first innings spell. First, his in-swinging yorker flattened Dravid. The very next ball castled Sachin. The crowd fell silent. The twin blows were less physical, more psychological, and it did reflect in the end result.

This time in Karachi, the damage was inflicted on day one only. The two proven match winners were first softened by Akhtar, and then consumed by others. Asif had Dravid off a beauty, and Razzaq castled Tendulkar a few overs after a threatening bouncer from Akhtar. Indian batting had lost its way despite the Maharaj's and Yuvraj's best efforts in the morning of day two.

It was advantage Pakistan after day two in Kolkata. Pakistan were 26 for one in their second innings, still 12 runs in arrears. But India were to play their fourth innings on a wearing track. Southpaw opener Saeed Anwar, unbeaten on 12 at the end of day two, went on to make 188in Pakistan's second innings score of 316. He was undefeated till the end as India were set 279 to win. The job turned out to be beyond the hosts capacity and they lost by 46 runs.

We can get a similar glimpse in the Karachi test. Pakistan are almost in an impregnable position at the end of day two. At 173 for two with an overall lead of 180, the hosts have a golden opportunity to erase the memory of the 1-2 series loss in 2004. Going by the determined looks on the faces of Pakistan's top four batsmen, India will need a miracle to win the match, which they thought was in their pocket by the eleventh over on day one. Again, southpaw openers did the damage. Cricket never ceases to surprise.

First Published: Jan 31, 2006 01:20 IST